03 February 2011

'Evelyn has a fall' or 'The scariest day of my life...'

Sunday morning started out like any other. Snuggles in the morning with Momma and Daddy. Playing in the living room while Daddy does laundry. Rolling around in the pile of newspaper on the floor while coupons are cut. Gathering laundry from the porch as rain started coming down. Normally Sundays are pretty low key until we head to church in the evening. This week, however, we had a birthday party to attend for the afternoon. As the time was approaching to head out we got dressed and went to change Evelyn's diaper.

The next 15 seconds are going to give me nightmares for a while.

I turned to get a wipe and turned back to see her falling off the changing table. She landed on the floor on her butt and her head slammed backward into the frame of our bed. She looked at me as I picked her up but she wasn't moving and not crying- just a  sort of groan coming from deep inside her. I yelled for Matthew but didn't get a response so I cradled her and rushed down the stairs. Her arms were just flopping by her side and she still wasn't crying. In hindsight, I'm pretty sure she wasn't conscious. When I got to the bottom of the stairs Matthew was coming back inside. The next bit is blurred in my memory but I know I handed Evelyn to Matthew and he held her against his chest, immobilizing her neck. He told me to call 911. I somehow managed to tell the operator what was happening. Evelyn was finally making some crying noises but not a lot. She'd fuss for a moment and then go silent again, with labored breathing. She would push away from Matthew with her right side but wasn't moving her left side. Her left hand looked a little gray and when I touched the bottom of her feet the left side had no response. Matthew said her neck felt a little funny. Matthew told me to get our wallets and cell phones. I ran upstairs to find the phones and started sobbing, 'What have I done?' and praying, although I don't know how much was coherent.

The EMTs arrived and rushed into the house. They told me to get a diaper bag and change of clothes. One followed me upstairs to see where the accident had happened. He asked me for some information and I lost it again. He was very reassuring. He was a dad and knew how I was feeling. He explained that when we went downstairs, Evelyn would be strapped into the Papoose, the child size body board used to keep her from moving. When we got down, the EMT holding the Papoose told me that all her limbs had been able to move when they put her in and her neck felt normal.

I was ushered to the ambulance to ride with Evelyn while Matthew would follow in the car. I held her hand and ran my fingers through her hair, telling her what a good girl she was and reassuring her. We were on our way, sirens blaring, and the EMTs explaining what was going to happen when we got to the hospital and generally working to keep me calm. They were incredibly reassuring that she was doing well but about halfway to the hospital she nodded off to sleep and I started crying again, since I didn't need to keep a calm face for her.

Once at the hospital there was more waiting than I wanted but the EMTs had assured me that it was a good thing and meant that she wasn't in horrible condition. I didn't see them leave but it happened shortly after Matthew arrived, covered in rain. I'm not sure of how much time everything took because it was as if the world was in slow motion. The doctor came and undid the straps of the Papoose. She okayed me to put a diaper on Evelyn (since we hadn't made it to that part of the diaper change) and said I could pick her up. I spent the rest of the time we were at the hospital hugging her to my chest.

Being held by Momma calmed her down and the doctor told us to try to get her to sleep so that they could do the CT scan without needing to sedate her. She drowsed on and off but she had started throwing up, down my back and onto the floor. Matthew cleaned up with the towels from the Papoose and the nurse gave her some anti nausea medicine. Which she promptly threw up. The ER was completely full, beds lining the halls, but we were luckily in a more quiet corner. It seemed like we were there for days. Finally she settled in and we let the nurse know we were ready. We were top of the list to get a CT scan but for some reason it took them (the radiology team) about 45 minute to come get us. The nurses were furious. Finally we just said we'd walk up instead of waiting for transportation (whatever that meant) and were escorted up to radiology. Evelyn was laid down with her head in a cradle and arms swaddled to her. They put an apron over her body and gave me one as well. I held her chin while they did the scan, talking to her and letting her know I was there. Matthew picked her up after the scan and carried her back down to our hospital bed. I took the opportunity of free arms to change my dirty shirt for a hospital gown, before the smell of vomit made me sick as well.

I had never managed to find our phones and we had no way to contact anyone to let them know where we were. While I'd been working on putting Evelyn to sleep, Matthew had found one of the nurses to find a phone. She let him use a doctors office, where he looked up some phone numbers in his email and managed to make contact with one of our small group members, Jon, who in turn got word out so that people could be praying for Evelyn. He joined us shortly after we got back from radiology, with snacks and a cell phone, followed by another group member, Jeremy. It was strangely reassuring to have friends there. They're not doctor so it's not as if they could do anything but the support was appreciated.

The doctor came back with good news- no problems on the CT. She gave us a run down on head injuries and told us what to look for over the next 24 hours. We were asked to bring Evelyn to her pediatrician the following morning. We left the hospital, 4 hours after the accident, feeling years older.

Once at home, we called our parents to let them know what was going on, changed into comfortable clothes and settled in with the girl. We had company in waves through the evening, per our request, to distract us from thoughts of the day. Chipotle burritos were delivered for dinner. Evelyn was doing a bit better but was still very subdued. It was hard to see her be such a shadow of herself. One of her favorite little girls arrived, parents in tow, and Evelyn lit up and pointed and made some talking noise. It was such a relief to see her starting to react to the world around her. Even the little boy Jackson she is normally scared of was interesting to her. She stayed cuddled on my lap but watched the kids play until she got tired. I was finally able to nurse her around 7:30 or 8 and it was the first food into her stomach since around 11 that morning. She threw up some but most of the milk managed to stay in her stomach.

We decided to take shifts to sleep so that one of us could keep an eye on Evelyn and make sure she was okay. I took the first shift, which turned into the only shift. As she would wake up, I'd nurse her, something that Daddy can't do, so I decided to let him sleep. I watched her sleep next to me on the bed and then snoozed with her on the recliner. By about 4am she was still doing well so I told Matthew, who was sleeping on the couch, that I was going to go to bed with her. At some point during the night she vomited pretty heavily but after that managed to nurse a bit more. Matthew came up to bed around 5 and we fitfully slept on either side of Evelyn until 8am, when the pediatricians office opened. Evelyn was still rather wobbly- I attempted to sit her on her own and she tottered and slowly lay down as if she had just gotten off a carnival ride.

We were able to get an appointment for 9 and quickly packed up and headed out the door. The nurse weighed her in at 23lbs 5 oz and 30" tall. The doctor checked her over and prescribed some anti nausea suppositories so that Evelyn would be able to keep some pain killers down. She told us that Evelyn had a grade 3 concussion and may have had a small seizure when she hit her head, which could have been why the left side of her body had been temporarily paralyzed. She stressed that babies are resilient and that she should be fine. The pediatrician was still waiting on the final CT report but told us that at this point it was basically waiting and watching how she recovers. As long as she steadily improved, it was not likely that there were serious problems.

She also spent a moment with me, explaining that I was not at fault. I think I was still in shock because I sort of felt numb to anything other than taking care of Evelyn.

The rest of Monday passed by a still wobbly, but improving, Evelyn. Jackson came over again with his mom, Lena, and entertained Evelyn. His mom brought us chocolate chips cookies and a giant sandwich for lunch. Every time Evelyn did something she normally would for the first time since the fall, Matthew and I would simultaneously laugh and cry. Like when she laughed and pointed at Lena's arrival. Like when she smiled. Like when she said her version of hello. Or wanted to eat one of her food pouches. She worked at playing with Jackson but needed someone to hold her steady. We heard back from the pediatrician that the second opinion on the CT scan also saw no sign of trouble.

Tuesday showed more improvement still and this morning we decided to stop the anti nausea medicine to see how she would do. She's kept all her food down and her appetite is returning. I think it will be a day or two until she's got her balance back but she is our happy, spunky little girl again.

I want to thank Matthew for being strong for me in spite of his own struggles; our families for being with us on the phone at all hours of the day; Jon, Lena and Jackson for their loving support, for food, and for smiling baby boys; Jeremy for coming to support us and Vanessa for letting him, despite being at home pregnant and sick; Jett, Kelly and Ruby for company, entertainment and clean dishes; Mel for delicious burritos and cheerful company; Tim and Deb for chatting with us past bed time; the Popes for stopping in and checking in; and everyone who was praying for our little girl and showing love via phone, computer and/or brain waves. We appreciate it more than we could express.


  1. Wow, that's an amazing and terrible story. It could have happened to anyone but you handled it so well. I'm sorry that you had to go through it, but what a blessing that you were surrounded by such love from your church! I'm glad she's going to be okay and i'll pray that your nerves go back to normal!

  2. It is so hard as parents not to blame yourselves! We've had our fair share of moments like that as well. I am glad to hear she is recovering nicely.

  3. I was so glad to finally get to talk to Matthew myself this morning, and so glad to hear she's more and more back to being herself. I can't imagine how scary this was and I'm so thankful you have a support system there.

    When I first heard, all I wanted to do was come give you and Matthew hugs. I knew E was in good hands with the docs, but I didn't know if anyone was taking care of you and Matthew. Thanks to God for your church family.

    Please know that the church family here was lifting her (and you) up in prayer as well.

  4. My heart goes out to you- what a scary experience! HUG! Any updates? How is she doing now?

  5. She's back to normal. Luckily kids are resilient!

  6. Awesome- That's wonderful news!


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